Usually when I do a Pattern Roll-Call, I like to feature several patterns by different designers. But as I was sifting through all the mini-skein patterns on Ravelry, I came across a little treasure trove full of patterns that I just love so much that I had to dedicate a whole blog post to them.
It started with this sweet little Pinwheel Purse. Isn’t it lovely? It’s the same origami you did as a kid — but in knitting! So cool.
And so from there, I began looking through the rest of the designer’s work, and found that her sense of colour and shape really spoke to me. I love the gentle, organic changes of colours and yarns, the very simple shaping, the modular construction, and — maybe most of all — the almost complete lack of sewing up!
There’s a lot of yarns that would work well with these patterns, but I love how well these patterns would suit mini-skeins of fabulous variegated and semi-solid yarns. Can’t you just see it? All the colours coming together to compliment each other in some places and contrast one another in others. Beautiful!
If you’d like some amazing mini-skeins to knit these patterns in, check out the SpaceCadet’s new Mini-Skein Club. Each month you’ll receive a surprise selection of gorgeous SpaceCadet yarns delivered to your door, so that you can try out all the SpaceCadet bases and feed your mini-skein project addiction!
There has been so much going on here — so much! — that I feel I am about to burst! And it’s all just about ready… a-a-almost there… So today’s shop update will be a mini-update so I can quickly get back and finish all this up and share it with you. More on that update at the bottom.
But right now, let me tell you what I’ve been working on…
First, a new website! I’m really excited about it because it’s beautiful, everything I’d hoped for. But the reason that’s really cool for you is that it’s going to allow me to a whole bunch of new things that I couldn’t do before (one of them is my new club, which I’m going to tell you about in a second).
But there’s a really important thing you need to know about this website change. If you subscribe to my website via my mailing list, you don’t need to do a thing. But if you subscribe via WordPress, you’ll need to change over to the mailing list — and that’s super easy to do. Just click here to join the mailing list. See? Easy and done! (If you want to ensure you don’t receive duplicate emails during the transition period, you might also change your WordPress settings, like this.)
Remember that Super Secret Thing I was telling you about? Oh, I am so excited about this…! And if you’re addicted to hexipuffs, dreaming about the BeeKeeper’s Quilt, falling head over heels for the Babette blanket, or any of the other wonderful mini-skein patterns that are cropping up everywhere these days, then you will be super excited too! The SpaceCadet Mini-Skein Club is coming and it will not only be a regular supply of those addictive little skeins, but also give you the perfect opportunity to try out all those wonderful SpaceCadet yarns and colourways that you’ve never used before. Think of it as a mouthwatering knitters’ and crocheters’ sample pack, delivering yarny goodness to your door every month…
I cannot wait to get the Mini-Skein Club started! If you can’t wait either, make sure you’re on the mailing list to be the first to hear when it goes live!
The ebook is with the editor and is so close to being finished, I can taste it! I know a lot of people aren’t sure how to approach knitting or crocheting with hand-dyed yarn, so I’m hoping this ebook will help ease any nervousness. It’s an introductory guide to hand-dyed yarn: how to use it, how to care for it, how to understand it so you can dive into hand-dyed without fear. If that sounds just right for you, then get on that mailing list to be sure you hear when it’s ready for download!
Oh, and this is really cool — the editor has been blogging the process of putting the ebook together. Check it out!
And finally, here’s the shop mini-update I promised you, two yarns that I am just crazy about…
First is a colourway that I’ve called Inlet, because I see all the colours of shimmering and shallow water — blues, greens, grays — with the glint of something precious resting at the bottom. I absolutely love this colourway! The yarn is 70% superwash merino, 20% bamboo, and 10% nylon, so it has that lovely glossy sheen.
And another yarn in that same lovely bamboo base… This colourway is Contrary and I just love the intensity of those cool, cool blues…
So, lots of stuff going on. It’s been crazy busy but soooo exciting! And if you’re excited too, keep checking back to see if the website has changed. Once it has, the ball starts rolling on everything else too…
Here’s a Friday morning brainteaser for you… (because, you need one, right? You’re wide awake and raring for brainteasing this morning, right? …no? Oh, never mind, keep reading. It’s worth it.)
Right, here’s your brainteaser: how do you pronounce amigurumi? Yes, amigurumi. I’m hitting you with a word like amigurumi first thing on a Friday morning not because I’m particularly cruel and sadistic (although… umm… no, never mind) but because if you don’t know about amigurumi, then I have someone I want to introduce you to.
Ok, let’s back it up and make Friday morning a bit easier. How do you pronounce Fresh Stitches? How about Stacey Trock? Better? Yep, me too! I can’t say amigurumi to save my life. …Well, I can, but I have to slow right down and I sound like an idiot. I prefer to say Stacey Trock. Mostly, because I really like her.
Stacey designs crocheted amigurumi, which is a Japanese word meaning a crocheted or knitted stuffed animal. And so you know they are going to be cute, but Stacey’s designs are not just cute, they’re downright funky. I mean, right now, you’re thinking “teddy bears”, right? Nope.
I met Stacey at TNNA in June — she was unmissable, wandering around with a crocheted monkey on her back — and I quickly discovered she is an absolutely lovely person. During the Mother-of-All-Knit-Nights (imagine a room filled with every.single.one of your knitting idols, and that’s exactly what it was), Stacey and I got to talking and… we just kept going for a couple of hours! Isn’t it just the coolest thing when the people you’ve admired from afar turn out to be truly nice people in real life?
Stacey, your amigurumi are so adorable! How do your design ideas come to you? Do you know what the finished project will look like before you start, or do you let the yarn and hook lead the way and just see how it comes out?
Aww, thank you! I have no idea how my ideas come to me… sometimes I think it’s just a little fairy in the night that brings them. In all honesty, I’ll just get ‘struck’ by an animal idea, and I know exactly how it’s going to look and how it’s going to be made. And more than often, I’m right. Once in a while, I go through a phase of experimenting with different shapes and techniques, and then a whole new batch of animals will hit me.
When did you make the jump from crocheter to crochet designer? What defined that change in your mind?
Ah, yes… you’re hinting at two different questions! The first one is: when did I go from crocheter to being a person who sold crochet designs. I did that one summer, when I was finished with school, and was tired of what I was doing. I asked myself, ‘what would I do if I didn’t have to worry about money at all?’. And I thought, ‘make stuffed animals’. And, I’ve been crocheting since I was very small, so that seemed like the natural method to make my animals. Then, I thought about it, and figured I really could make a living of it… so, then I just started designing! My first designs were a koala and a lion.
The second question, when did I feel like a crochet designer is slightly different. It took a while for me to really believe that this was my job and not just some pipe dream. I would say that after my first book, Cuddly Crochet, came out, I felt like I was really a designer.
It’s interesting, though- because I think of myself as a stuffed animal designer, not a ‘crochet designer’. I would jump to knitting stuffed animals before I would design a crocheted sweater. I guess I’m just obsessed with stuffed animals 🙂
When you design, do you have a specific person in mind? Are you designing for someone, or for yourself?
I always have one of two customers in mind when I design. Customer number one is a late-20s, early 30s woman who is crocheting a toy for her children (of course, in real life, it could be a grandmother, aunt or even a father… but marketing folks tell you to be specific!). She’s interested in a pattern that’s not overwhelmingly complicated (she has other things to do, after all!) and she’s also interested in a fairly mainstream, cute animal. The animal also will need to be baby-safe (crocheted eyes, no long strings, etc.). My Nelson the Owl pattern is a stereotypical example of an animal I designed with this customer in mind.
Customer number 2 is a late teenager or 20-something woman who loves crocheting and wants to make a funky and cute crocheted animal. She’s not scared off by trying a new technique, but the end product has to be awesome. She may be making it to make a statement at work, or crocheting a gift for a
friend (and wants a super-unique gift over something you can just buy in the store). Weird animals are totally okay… even suggested! Sandford the Squid is the best example of a pattern I’ve designed with this customer in mind.
Sometimes, I lose sight of my customer, and design an animal ‘just because’, and these usually end up being flops. Like, I designed a cheetah… he was cute, for a cheetah. But, what’s the market? You don’t give a cheetah to a baby. And, people looking for funky designs aren’t drawn to cheetahs.
It’s been a lesson… even though I’m completely passionate about what I do, it’s still a business, and I need to keep in mind that I’m designing for my customers.
Are there any special skills needed for amigurumi that are different from other crochet projects?
The main thing about amigurumi is that they are worked in the round. You don’t need any special stitches (it’s the same single crochet, increasing and decreasing that you see everywhere), but starting off can be tricky for folks… it’s getting the piece going in the round. I use the sloppy slip knot (a technique that I made up by accident) because it’s quick an easy. The magic ring is another popular choice.
Attaching the pieces (arms, legs, etc to the body) also takes a little artistry. It can be tricky when you start, but using some locking stitch markers to position the piece (and see if you like it) before sewing it on is a great tip. Alternatively, Dawn Toussaint is an amigurumi designer who attaches all of the pieces as you crochet- so there’s nothing to attach afterwards… that can make the whole attaching-thing easier!
What is the best bit of being a designer? What part of it brings you the most joy?
The thing I love most is the flexibility. I get to work from home and make my own schedule. My partner (Tim) is Australian, and we go back to Australia for 3 weeks every Christmas. I’m the studio manager at my yoga studio, and I attend classes at 5pm. Tim is giving a talk at a university in a few weeks, and I get to just go along. I don’t think I could do any of those things if I worked a normal 9-5 job.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t work a lot of hours… but the flexibility is priceless to me!
It’s funny you ask the 2nd question… because the best thing in the world happened to me this morning- that makes my job super-awesome. One of my customers emailed me and told me that she was going through a very hard time in her life (due to family illness), and that what had gotten her through was making my stuffed animals for her grandchildren! I couldn’t believe someone would say such a sweet thing to me! Making others happy brings me the most joy!
What is your favourite amigurumi design that you’ve done? Which one makes you smile every time you see it?
I’ve got two. One is Nelson the Owl… I’m not sure if it’s because owls are insanely popular right now, or what, but I make a lot of them, and they’re adorable every time! It doesn’t matter what color combo you use- he’s adorable! The second is Milton the Snail from my new book, Crocheted Softies. I have a total soft spot for snails… and I love Milton!!!
What do you suggest to knitters/crocheters who are nervous about using hand-dyed?
Who’s afraid of hand-dyeds? I’ll go have a talk with them! I think what most people don’t realize is that you can use hand-dyed yarns in almost any pattern that calls for commercial yarns! Crocheters and Knitters seem to get really caught up on using the yarn recommended in the pattern… but as long as you’re substituting a similar weight and fiber yarn (i.e. a worsted weight wool for another worsted weight wool)- you don’t need to think very hard about doing a substitution! And, there’s so much more variety in the hand-dyed market. A commercial yarn company produces thousands of skeins of each color… so they’re pretty tied to producing yarns and colors with a broad appeal. But, since an indie dyer produces yarn in small lots, they can really let their creativity shine through. I’ve gotten some amazingly colored skeins from indie dyers that would have never been available commercially! Also, you can’t beat the colors and love that goes into hand-dyed… so I say, rock on!
The PLY Party was seriously crazy! There were so many people that, at moments, I hardly knew where to stand. It’s so much fun when it gets like that… when everyone’s starting to get a bit high on the fiber!
But, before I tell you all about it, I just want to let you know that there are only FOUR DAYS LEFT to join the InterStellar Yarn Alliance. This is the SpaceCadet’s Cosmic Yarn Club and it is a BLAST! Click here to read more about it, or just click on the button below to join now…
Ok, back to the PLY Party… First, yeah, it was crazy, and then when it calmed down a little… well, that was really nice too, because I got to chat with some really great people. A couple of them were members of the InterStellar Yarn Alliance: one I’d met before in person (and who had such nice things to say about the Alliance that she actually made me blush!) and one whom I’d known only through the forums — what a lovely surprise to get to meet her in person!
I also ended up in a conversation with a brand-new crocheter and showed her a couple of exciting patterns on Ravelry, so (I hope) I helped to get her even more excited about new yarny adventures. And I had a wonderful conversation about England with a lady who’d lived there for years. Really joyed meeting everyone!
But after a show… exhaustion. And yet, there’s so much to do! First, I have to fill the shop back up after emptying it for the show. That was supposed to happen Tuesday — I’m hoping to get it done today. Check in throughout the day to see if I manage to do it…!
But more exciting than that are some great things on the horizon…
First, I’m working on an ebook: a short introduction to using hand-dyed yarns and choosing patterns that will bring out their best. I know hand-dyeds can be a little daunting to some knitters and crocheters — all those crazy colours! — so this will be a quick guide on how to understand them and get started without fear. It should be done in the next month or so, so if that sounds like what you’re looking for, be sure you’re signed up the newsletter to get first dibs!
Speaking of newsletters, I’m about to send out the first InterStellar Yarn Alliance newsletter with exclusive offers just for members. This is a new feature for the Yarn Alliance, so if you’re already a member, please make sure you’ve told me it’s ok to sign you up to the mailing list so you don’t miss out on the offers. (We value your privacy, so of course we will never put you on a mailing list that you haven’t requested to join. Just fire an email to me with “PUT ME ON THE ISYA MAILING LIST!” and I’ll get you on it straight away!).
And… there’s another Super Secret Thing in the works. I can’t say any more about it, but I am so excited, I’m ready to burst! All puffed up and ready to burst! (…That was a hint. Did you get it?) The Super Secret Thing will be ready nearer the end of September — again, make sure you’re on the mailing list to hear about it first.
So, lots of exciting stuff going on. And, also… the post-show exhaustion. It’s sooooo not a good combination. sigh… Could someone please grab me a coffee?
It’s going to be an exciting weekend! We’re packing up all the yarns and heading to Baltimore for Lovelyarn‘s PLY (Peace, Love, Yarn) Party on Sunday, and — so long as the rain holds off — I think it’s going to be a blast!
The PLY Party is a gathering of the indie dyers that Lovelyarns carries in their shop, selling their yarns in person and getting to meet the customers (and that last bit is the part I’m really looking forward to). If you’re anywhere in the Baltimore area this weekend, please do come to the party!
Here’s all the details:
Lovelyarn’s PLY (Peace, Love, Yarn) Party
Sunday, September 11th from 12noon – 6:00pm The party starts inside Lovelyarns at 846 W. 36th St. Baltimore, MD 21211
with a beautiful array of complimentary food, drink (and cupcakes!)
Then go through the shop to enter the THREE TENTS in the backyard parking pad. And for even more incentive, five door prize bags full of goodies will be given away!
Now, because we’ll be taking most of our stock to the PLY Party, I will be emptying the Etsy shop for the weekend. I’ll probably do that on Saturday night and hope to get it opened up again early next week (Subscriptions to the InterStellar Yarn Alliance will of course remain available over the weekend).
And this is the first time I’ve ever done the PLY party, but I’m told it’s really popular and gets a bit crazy. …So if there’s anything in the shop that’s been calling your name, you might want to grab it now, because there’s no telling if we’ll still have it next week!
Ok… (looks around)… ok, I think everyone’s got their parcels by now, so I think I’m safe to share the latest InterStellar Yarn Alliance parcel…
The light has changed recently, as summer turns into autumn. There’s something more golden about its cast, it falls at gentler angle. The aura of the end of summer is unmistakeable, and I wanted to capture that in a yarn.
So I chose this gorgeous 80% Superwash Merino, 20% Bamboo, 10% Nylon fingering weight, because Bamboo really captures the light to create a beautiful sheen across the yarn. And then I dyed it in the shades of summer fields, as the grass turns to a deeper shade of green, and then begins to fade to gold.
To me, these colours perfectly capture the End of Summer. And so that’s exactly what I named it!
And here’s something really fun: this month, I had Debbie at Divine Scentsations create some wonderful, hand-made soaps for the Yarn Alliance members. She did four scents — Lavender, Peppermint Leaf, Lemongrass Tea, and Citrus Lavender — and they are incredible! I can show you pictures but… oh! If only you could smell them!
One of the Alliance members said she knew she had Lavender even before she opened the package. Thesesoaps smell amazing! I kept trying to pick my favourite scent but… it’s impossible. They’re all really different but soooo delicious.
Don’t forget, the InterStellar Yarn Alliance is open for subscriptions right now (and will close again after September 17). To find out more about the great stuff that Alliance members get, click here. And if you want to join the Alliance and be a part of all this fun, just click on the button below…